- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

One private plane has landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in the 10 days since the first ceremonial flight Oct. 18.

It was the same day.

Since then, the airport’s general aviation terminal has been silent, although 48 flights may land there every day.

Reagan Airport may have reopened to private planes, ending a four-year ban, but corporate aircraft continue to use Washington Dulles International Airport and small regional airports to avoid the Transportation Security Administration’s regulations.

A pair of lawmakers plan to ask the TSA to ease restrictions.

“They’ve got so many rules it’s like the ban is still in place,” said Dan Kidder, spokesman for the National Air Transportation Association, an industry group representing 2,000 aircraft operators.

The TSA is standing by the new rules despite criticism that its regulations are responsible for the absence of business aircraft.

“We have to strike a balance between commerce and security,” TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser said.

The agency intends to review its security measures, he said, but it is too early to alter them.

The TSA published a 27-page rule in July governing private, noncommercial flights to and from the airport, and last week lawmakers gathered at the airport to hail the return of private aviation when a plane landed just as the sky began to brighten.

Another landed at 4:15 p.m., and it has been silent at the general aviation terminal since then.

“Our customers are telling us the rules are too onerous, and that’s evident by the lack of arrivals,” said Joe Gibney, spokesman for Signature Flight Support, which provides maintenance for business jets at Reagan Airport.

Just seven aircraft operators have been approved by the TSA to fly into Reagan Airport and can request one of the 48 slots a day the agency has set aside for private planes.

Prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, more than 120 private aircraft used the airport each day. In 2000, the last full year private planes had access to the airport, the airport reported 44,592 incoming and outgoing general aviation flights.

The airport handles about 800 commercial flights each day.

Closing the airport to private planes cost an estimated $280 million in lost revenue and wages, according to a study conducted by HLB Decision Economics and funded by the National Business Aviation Association.

Advocates of general aviation say one of the most onerous restrictions is one requiring each private plane to have an armed law-enforcement officer aboard.

“General aviation is not a security threat. There’s no reason to single us out as a security threat,” said Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, a trade group representing more than 7,000 companies that fly aircraft.

The TSA places armed federal air marshals on random commercial flights, and armed guards should be on private planes, too, because of Reagan Airport’s proximity to the White House, U.S. Capitol and the monuments, Mr. Kayser said.

“We want to make sure general aviation aircraft, some of which are quite large, are under similar measures that we see with commercial aviation,” he said.

Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee, said he and Rep. Robin Hayes, North Carolina Republican and a licensed pilot, will ask the TSA to ease its rules.

“We will be mounting a protest in opposition to the rules. They’re just too restrictive,” Mr. Mica said.

General aviation advocates also are dismayed with a regulation requiring aircraft operators to submit flight plans a day before flying to Reagan Airport. Security officials require early submission of flight plans and the names of crew members and passengers so they can conduct background checks.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide